“There is no doubt in the strong wish from both Africa and China side to foster stronger agricultural cooperation. However, our experience and lessons have shown that impact can only be achieved faster by supporting countries to deliver on their own transformation; driving scale through a well-planned and coordinated approach to resources in the public domain.”
The words of Dr. Fadel Ndiame, interim vice president of Policy and State Capacity division of AGRA, stressed the importance of the role of government capability in China-Africa cooperation, at the 2nd International Agricultural Research Conference.
The conference was held at an exciting time, three weeks right after the successful conclusion of Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Agricultural cooperation has been listed as the first item among the “Eight Initiatives”, the detailed action plan of which highlighting the importance of high-level strategy planning and establishment of cooperation mechanism. This theme on policy coordination has since carried on and was underscored on the 2nd International Agricultural Research Conference.
Barriers in the China-Africa eco-system is preventing the cooperation in agriculture from achieving full impact
China Africa agricultural cooperation has attracted increasing attention. Ever since 1959, the scope of cooperation has expanded from free aid to a wider range of activities such as investment, trade, technology transfer and knowledge sharing and beyond. During the progress in practice, nevertheless, a number of challenges have been encountered and need to be addressed to ensure the potential to be fully realized.
During the conference, AGRA identified challenges in the eco-system from Africa side, China side, the connectivity between China and Africa as well as from global development community’s standpoint. Major challenges include weak strategy planning capacity and coordination among African countries; poor business environment and real or perceived high risk for private sector investment in agriculture; Information gap and connectivity gap between African and Chinese actors; Lack of data collection and poor coordination with China by global development bodies etc.
Country commitment (vision, leadership, execution) is at the heart of accelerated transformation
In particular, Dr. Fadel Ndiame drew the audience’s attention to the challenges on African countries weak capacity in strategy planning, execution and policy coordination. He pointed out that government is the most critical partner for sustainable development and often the weaker link. Those countries that demonstrate political commitment and drive the right policies and investments are able to improve food security and drive inclusive economic growth in a very short period of time. Nigeria, Ethiopia and Rwanda have been three cases in point to show how government commitment can unlock the potential of the private sector and their smallholder farmers, driving progress throughout their economy overall.
This year, AGRA has put the theme of country commitment and accountability at the center of their annual forum African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali, with the theme “Lead, Measure, Grow”. AGRA has also published the 2018 African Agriculture Status Report (AASR) titled “Catalyzing Government Capacity to Drive Agricultural Transformation”, which echoes the continuing theme on country commitment. During the talk, Dr. Ndiame presented the 7 key recommendations for African governments to foster stronger agricultural cooperation and unleash the potential.
- Communicate a clear and convincing vision of agriculture’s growth/transformation.
- Approach agriculture as a long-term relationship, not a brief affair
- Link policies and investments to clear commercial opportunities for smallholder farmers.
- Foster an enabling business environment for agriculture.
- Create farmer-focused institutions and initiatives empowered to work across government
- ‘Team agriculture’ needs to expand its roster of players.
- Governments need to be accountable.
Call for policy coordination and state capacity building to foster a stronger agricultural cooperation between China and Africa
AGRA’s intentional emphasis on policy coordination and state capacity during the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) was welcomed by high-level delegation from Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MARA). During the South South high-level panel at the forum, Hon. Hongyao Wu from MARA underlined the imperative to strengthen top-level strategy design and establish coordination mechanisms and platforms between China and Africa.
At the end of the speech, Dr. Ndiame reiterated this common view from China and Africa:
“It is clear that we share the same vision for stronger China-Africa agricultural cooperation by strengthening policy coordination and state capacity building. AGRA stands ready to contribute and look forward to working closely with the Chinese partners hand in hand to realize that vision.”
Written by Xinqing LU, Associate Program Officer, China partnership